Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Margaret Macy must escape her home to protect her virtue, inheritance, and future! Her step-father has ordered his scoundrel nephew to court, woo, and even compromise (if necessary) his step daughter, Margaret, in order to force marriage between them and obtain control of her inheritance. With no funds readily available and no family nearby, Margaret disguises herself as a maid and leaves her family and home. In just a few months she will be old enough to claim her inheritance and can come out of hiding. Needing protection and the means to support herself, Margaret looks for work as a maid. By chance she is given a trial job at Fairbourne Hall, an estate that sounds familiar to her. It isn’t until Margaret arrives at Fairbourne Hall that she realizes that a former suitor whose offer of marriage she rejected lives within and is now considered her master.
With all the time we spend amongst servants and learning about life downstairs, this story felt like a Regency version of Downton Abbey! Julie Klassen shows readers what a normal day’s work is like for a housemaid, the rules and restrictions they must abide by, the isolated and lonely life they can live. I love how Ms. Klassen always includes relevant content and historical backdrops that educates and informs her readers about life in other professions and time periods. I learn so much when I read her novels – like the practice of maids facing a wall when a member of the family is passing near and how servants were required to mix or create their own cleaning materials and household commodities like furniture polish and cold cream.
This is my fifth Julie Klassen novel*, so of course I went in expecting a bit of intrigue, personal growth, a tender romance, and inspiration – I was not disappointed! The intrigue about Margaret and her masquerade as a servant was such a fun adventure to follow, and the mysterious activities of Lewis Upchurch and what he was up to at night definitely kept me guessing. But what riveted me most to this story and kept me saying “one chapter more” to myself repeatedly was Nathaniel Upchurch and whether or not he recognized Margaret! I loved, loved, loved the scenes between Nathaniel and Margaret! Nathaniel is a caring, noble, and very admirable hero, and I greatly enjoyed observing Margaret slowly realize bit by bit all his wonderful qualities.
While I enjoyed Margaret as a character and took pleasure in witnessing her gradual transformation and personal growth, I couldn’t help but feel she was at times a little incongruent. On the one hand she is portrayed as a country girl – simple, refreshingly sincere – a doting sister, a daughter who greatly cherished everything about her father. But on the other hand, she also appears to be inconsiderate, self-centered, foolish, and haughty to others. Is she the “unaffected, spirited” beauty that Nathaniel fell in love with? Or is she a selfish and entitled heiress who can’t recall if she ever used the word “please” with a servant before?
Despite my quibble about the heroine, this romantic tale by Julie Klassen was a terrific and exhilarating read that I could not easily put down! Looking for something that combines your love of Jane Austen and Downton Abbey? You should definitely try The Maid at Fairbourne Hall!